No longer able to claim my former status as a correspondent – I unofficially retired from my post as a contributor on matters relating to English rugby Premiership team Harlequins three or four years ago (depending upon which season/year one is talking about) having become disillusioned with both the direction of the club and the state of the sport in general – I have nevertheless continued to be a regular visitor to the website of this august organ in pursuit of two ‘E’s arguably essential to a grip upon sanity in the modern world: enlightenment and entertainment.
In which regard I offer my piece today, courtesy of a feature article I spotted overnight on the website of The Guardian newspaper.
Back in my Quins period I was proud to be a committed fan of the sporting kind, by which I mean that although I kept abreast of developments in professional English rugby at both Premiership and international levels – and would watch the sport on television in preference to any other – this was always through the prism that there was only one club that actually mattered.
I followed the ups and downs of Quins’ fortunes – and there was no shortage of both because, not being in the ‘super rich owner’ faction of the Premiership, like everyone else we were hampered by the de facto absence of that staple of true integrity and fairness in any elite sporting league (a level playing field).
I attended every home game I could, including the ‘junior’ league midweek evening games in which clubs fielded academy players and those first team squadders in need of ‘game’ time and/or returning to fitness after injury.
Whenever possible I used to go on ‘away match’ trips in England, Ireland, Wales and Europe, revelling in the camaraderie engendered by travelling in my regular small group of like-minded fans and indeed that of being part of a bigger mass of ‘Quins supporters on tour’ who collectively could generate considerable amusement for ourselves as well as support for the team in their battles out on the field of play.
For the record, perhaps incongruously – apart from our epic 2011/2012 season Premiership title victory, of course – the most rewarding experience of all my time supporting the club was the 2005/2006 season that Quins spent in the Championship, having been relegated from the Premiership on the last day of the previous season when unhappily our last-gasp chance to remain in the top tier (a penalty kick that would have won us the game) sailed just wide of the posts.
Which brings me to the subject of my post.
Back in the day, as a fanatical supporter, it was my habit to buy every new item of Quins merchandising. Well, perhaps not every item (I ‘passed’ on womenswear, pens and stationery), but basically – if it was featured in the merchandising shop and had a Quins badge on it – I acquired it.
Which brings me to my infamous pair of Quins speedos swimwear.
I bought them, to adapt legendary mountaineer George Mallory’s reply to the query why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, “because they were there”.
There weren’t many opportunities during the remainder of that season to wear them in public – the purchase took place in January – but that summer, on an extended-family holiday in a well-appointed and impressive villa somewhere in the hills of Umbrian or Tuscan Italy a suitable one seemed to present itself.
One sweltering day, after a delightful salad lunch on the terrace, the bulk of the population went down to spend the afternoon arranged around the outdoor swimming pool – I’m referring to adults of my own vintage and sundry youngsters of the next generation mostly in their teenage years.
It suddenly dawned upon me that this was it. I nipped back to my room, donned the article, disguised it under my voluminous pair of shorts and returned to join the throng.
Having waited about ten minutes, I rose from my sun lounger, slipped out of my shorts and went to stand upon the edge of the pool intent upon diving in.
Appropriate words to describe the ensuing reaction do not come easily to mind. Suffice it to say, as I waved my arms about in order to prepare for my plunge, I became aware of a degree of hushed whispering in the vicinity which rapidly developed into a combination of shock, horror, derision and even – I was most disappointed to note – over-exaggerated feigned retching from the direction of my own kids.
I was not to be deterred. Having launched myself into the pool, I later broke surface with the sleek elegance of a porpoise only to find that a rapid mass exodus from the sun loungers around the pool was in progress.
I could not imagine why.
See here for a link to an article by Richard Goodwin that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN